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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 816


Senator PUPLICK(8.55) —I do not want to repeat at any length the comments which I made about the clause during the second reading debate, nor do I think it particularly profitable to enter into a long discussion with Senator Gareth Evans on the matter. The views on both sides have been expressed. I hope that I have expressed my view as cogently as possible. Senator Evans has relied on the comments made in the report of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege which appear at paragraph 7.94. I quote part of that Committee report:

The Mahon case focuses on the danger inherent in the present system-the abuse of power by a partisan vote. This danger can never be eradicated and the fact that the only case in federal history when the power to expel was exercised is a case when, we think, the power was demonstrably misused is a compelling argument for its abolition.

If the test of parliamentary privilege were that it was demonstrably misused, we would be introducing a piece of legislation to abolish parliamentary privilege altogether. It seems to me to be a quite false argument to say that we had one occasion, certainly in very extraordinary circumstances, when the power was misused and therefore the power must be withdrawn in toto. After all, we are all conscious of and accept that from time to time members of both Houses of this Parliament and of many other parliaments where privilege is akin to ours misuse the privilege which is given to them. There is no magic in that.

There is quite clear concern on the part of many people that people whose names are taken in vain, whose reputations are sullied or traduced in the chamber under the guise of privilege, do not necessarily have the rights of redress that many people would like to see available to them. But that does not lead us, as a logical consequence, to seek to wind back the privilege. In fact, what we are doing in the legislation is entrenching the privilege, including the privilege which we know has not been used in an entirely appropriate fashion from time to time. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the case is made out for removing from the Parliament the ultimate right to make judgment about the conduct of its members and, as I say, to extend in a legislative form a privilege or a potential privilege, a potential protection, to individuals because they are members of parliament which would not be available to them in relation to the laws of the land and the proceedings of the judiciary of the land and which would not encompass them were they citizens who were not members of parliament.

I therefore persist in indicating that I do not believe that clause 8 of the legislation should be passed. I appreciate the strength of argument which is put contrary to that. I understand the principles upon which that contrary position is argued. I merely say that I have a right to assert a view on this matter, just as Senator Evans and Senator Durack have. Senator Durack indicated his support for clause 8 and he put his reasons very cogently. I happen to disagree with him. I happen to be persuaded that the power should continue to reside in the chambers themselves. Consequently, I will record my vote one way or the other against clause 8. I do not believe that a great deal will turn upon it in the historical analysis. I do not think that it will be a matter that at some stage people will suddenly find that perhaps they have made the greatest mistake in the history of the Australian Federal Parliament. Nevertheless, it is a power that I am not persuaded that the Parliament should abandon. Therefore, I do not intend to support this clause of a Bill which otherwise has my wholehearted support.